A Most Unlikely Journey

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Nick Crawford

Kia ora (hello/be well) everyone. I’m Nick Crawford (@Rumple on the discord group), you might know me as that guy who wrote some Sorcery: Contested Realm fan fiction about a village idiot turned foot soldier. Or you might know me as the mediocre player who unexpectedly ended up in the finals of the Sorcery League Season One.

Unlike many of the sorcery players in the community I don’t have a strong background in TCGs. Sure, I had dabbled in MTG:Arena for a few seasons, before the grind ground me down and I uninstalled. I don’t know my Gruul from my Grixis or my Ink from my Izzit. Teferi? I prefer the easter bunny.

So I had zero expectations about being able to go all the way. That was good players. “Good players” had long and solid TCG credentials. They made decks that work as intended. They had names like Zalem or Emberleaf or Jesse... and in my previous games with them, they would wipe the floor with my sorry keister.

Coming into the league, I knew how hopeless my deck building was. I made the smart decision and net-decked on curiosa.io. Jesse had pioneered a very effective Air Battlemage deck, achieving a very respectable 7/1 record. I got in touch with Jesse to pick his brain on how it all worked. He poured wisdom into me, but I was more sponge cake than sponge. Still, I was as prepared as I could ever be. Like the boulder, I was ready to roll into the realm.

My first 8 games came and went, I had gone 4/4. Air Battlemage was a good deck, but I wasn’t good enough to pilot it reliably or effectively. It was far more lethal in Jesse’s competent digital hands than mine. I found myself on the edge of the top cut bubble with AngerWorm and Haine.

The three of us competed for two potential top cut spaces, each grinding away for incremental points by playing a ridiculous number of games. I look back on this fondly now, the late nights, the camaraderie, the neglect of my family (I imagine my wife looks back on it less fondly). Amusingly the two possible spaces we competed for vanished like the Wolpertinger from Alpha when Nathaniel and Smorehead went 5/3. Still, AngerWorm, Haine, and I could all hold our heads high – we had fought the good fight in the best way. With good humour, and mutual respect.

Then something very surprising happened; Emberleaf withdrew from the top cut, citing his employment in Eriks Curiosa. He was followed by MikePelli also withdrawing. Both Haine and I were unexpectedly promoted to the Top Cut. I was surprised, thrilled, and panicked in equal measure.

I was having my first league Top Cut, without any context or experience for what was to come. All I knew was that my first match was to be against Ira. It was a tall mountain to climb. Ira had gone 8/0 in the league proper and was also the first player to beat me. I needed help, and a lot of it.

Like Bonnie Tyler, I needed a hero. There was only one man with the perfect credentials needed to take this raw recruit, break him down, and remake him into someone semi-competent. That hero was Zalem. He knows the game inside and out, knows TCG competitions and had gone 8/0 in the league. Zalem generously agreed to help me prepare and practice for the top cut.

Looking at Ira’s league history we thought Ira was probably going to play Earth/Air Avatar of Earth and my best chance was going to be a mirror match. We played a lot of late-night games, throwing countless deck ideas at the wall to see what stuck. Zalem served me both thrashings and lessons in equal measure. With all that practice I became…. competent.

I managed to pull out a match win against Ira, going 2/1. It was surreal, I wasn’t used to winning “big matches” against great players and I sure wasn’t used to people thinking I knew what I was doing (I still don’t know what I’m doing).

Zalem had indeed worked a miracle.

I had made it to the semi-final. My opponent Jesse was the absolute master of his Air Battlemage deck. I knew the deck well, having played it throughout the league. I did win against Jesse, but the battle was probably decided during deck design. The counter-battlemage deck was made knowing the early pressure would be intense, but if the storm could be weathered the Sorcerer should be able to pull away mid game with card advantage.

With that win I made it to the finals.

Zalem and I made a gentleman's agreement; we would avoid the highly competitive but overrepresented decks and avatars used in the league. No Earth/Air. No Avatar of Earth, Sorcerer, Battlemage. We wanted to put on a good show for the final, and we played to the best of our abilities.

Game 1

Zalem had an incredible start to the game and match, just look at his first 3 moves. Turn 1 – Philosophers Stone. Turn 2 – Geistwood + Apprentice Wizard. Turn 3 – Apprentice Wizard. I was feeling like the game was already decided by that point, what an incredible draw and start built on supreme deck building skills by Zalem. The match was over pretty quickly. Note the use of Deathspeaker as Zalem's Avatar. I ended up ditching all but one of my dispels for game 2, where he swapped in Enchantress, they would have come in handy!

Game 2

This is more like it. 3 Island Leviathans (the 3rd was from mirror realm) on the board waiting for enough threshold… and I’m holding a grapple shot! I would go on to deliver 16 damage in one turn with that combination. A few turns later I drew into chain lightning, just the card I needed to arc damage through my own minions into his Avatar to close out the game. I was quite proud of this win.

Game 3

Auras, auras everywhere. My poor hapless Seer, outwitted, outclassed, and outplayed. Retreating to the Gnome Hollows where they were subjected to repeated Zaps and beatings from the animated Thunderstorms. Congratulations to Zalem, on a well-deserved game, match, and league victory!

So, while Zalem had taught me everything I knew, he had not taught me everything he knows. The final match had gone his way at 2/1. More importantly we started and finished the games as friends, and many laughs were had along the way.

The whole league was a wild ride. I went far further in it than I (or anyone else!) would have expected, and I had fun doing so. New friends were made along the way, and existing friendships reinforced. Thank you to all my league opponents, with special mention to AngerWorm, Haine, Jesse, Ira, and Zalem for being key “bosses” in my journey. An extra special double thanks to Ira for organizing the league, and to Erik’s Curiosa for donating the prizes. I will see you all in the next season, let’s have a great game, and more importantly… fun.

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